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This is the Day–a life changing book

This is the Day:

Reclaim Your Dream. Ignite Your Passion. Live Your Purpose.

by Tim Tebow

with A. J. Gregory

this is the dayThe wisdom, insights, and inspiration in Tim Tebow’s This is the Day are timeless, but I think it is particularly appropriate that it popped up in my reading queue at the first of the new year when peoples’ thoughts turn to renovating their lives. I knew little about Tim Tebow, but I now know that although he is an athletic star, his goal is to help others and humbly point  attention on Jesus.

This book will inspire you to be your best and find your path through the strength of Jesus. Tebow tries to walk out his life according to Biblical principles. He is all about following God, loving others, and doing his best. He is also realistic about life’s challenges.

Sometimes nonfiction can be a slower read than fiction, but that is not the case with This is the Day. Tebow intertwines his own background and anecdotes from his life with Biblical truths. He never claims to be perfect, make all the right choices, or have an easy life. He also doesn’t claim to have all the right answers for everyone else’s life. He does, however, know how to come alongside people from all backgrounds and situations and pray with them. He knows how to point people to his best friend, Jesus.

This is the Day does not really fit any category other than nonfiction. Sports aficionados will love it. People, like me, who give a “deer in the headlights stare” when someone mentions the name of a sports team will love it. This book is for men, women, and teens. It is for Christians and those seeking God. It is for people at the top of their life game and for those suffering, struggling and wondering why life is the way it is. I recommend this book for everyone. I think you’ll be amazed and surprised at the wisdom and truths found in the inspirational This is the Day. It can be a life changer for you.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to WaterBrook (Penguin Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Religion and Spirituality

Notes: The memorable lines highlighted in This is the Day greatly exceeded the number I usually mark, so consider the ones mentioned below just a tiny taste of the inspiration to be found in this book.

Publication:   November 25, 2018—WaterBrook

Memorable Lines:

God gives us today as a gift. He wants us to pursue it, not just for selfish ambition but to do something meaningful with it. To use it to grow, to love others well, to help someone, to pursue a dream He’s put on our hearts.

…part of living this way means being confident that regardless of what happens in life or with our pursuits, God’s going to use it. He will use for the good our failures, our mistakes, our detours, and our U-turns, just like He will use our successes.

When you keep wondering what could have been or what you should have done differently, here’s what happens: you miss the present moment and cripple your potential in the future.

Auschwitz Lullaby–a mother’s amazing love

Auschwitz Lullaby

by Mario Escobar

Auschwitz LullabyAuschwitz Lullaby is a sad book based on the life of Helene Hannemann, a German woman married to a talented Gypsy violinist. As an Aryan she could have saved her own life, but she chooses instead to accompany her five mixed-blood Gypsy children to Auschwitz. There she is chosen by the infamous Doctor Mengele to establish and run a nursery school at the concentration camp. Knowing that Mengele would only perform this “kindness” to the children for his own ends, she agrees anyway to provide the starving children with more nutritious food, several hours a day in a cleaner, healthier environment, and some mental respite from the stressful deprivations and horrors of the camp.

Without graphic descriptions, the author Mario Escobar uses a first person format, having Helene tell her own story through a journal which she supposedly left behind in the camp. Her writing is encased in a Prologue and Epilogue in Mengele’s voice. As I read this work of historical fiction, I wondered how much was true. I was gratified to discover a section called “Historical Clarifications” at the conclusion of the tale that explains clearly the aspects of the book that are nonfiction. The author is a historian so he also adds a “Chronology of the Gypsy Camp at Auschwitz” and acknowledgements of his sources of research.

Although the publisher categorizes the book as “historical fiction” and “Christian,” there are not a lot of overt references to Christianity, but there is an underlying thread of faith, hope,and love available through the power of God. The school holds a meager Christmas celebration which attempts to “give these children back a little bit of their faith.” Helene notes “that night we were celebrating life, the birth of the Christ child” and she ponders the message of the manger: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” There are other Christian themes throughout of love, forgiving one’s enemies, God’s plan for Helene’s life, and the existence of evil.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Christian

Publication:  August 7, 2018 — Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

“From the first time I saw you, I knew God had brought you here to ease our pain somehow. You were so lost, confused, and scared, but I could see a fierce determination in the back of your eyes.”

Death seemed like a gift from heaven, but I knew that it was not yet for me. I was an old ship in the middle of a storm, and my children anchored me to life. I had to keep fighting for them, trying to hold on to hope, looking each day in the face, praying for this nightmare to finally be over.

“God sent you here to guide us. We needed a breath of hope, and you showed up with your beautiful family. I’ve never known anyone as brave and determined as you.”

I tried to fill my heart with love. I did not want hatred to eat away my insides. I had to love even my enemies. It was the only way to keep from becoming a monster myself.

The Bagel King–don’t fall on your tuckes!

The Bagel King

written by Andrew Larsen

Illustrated by Sandy Nichols

The Bagel KingThe Bagel King is a sweet story about a grandfather who goes to the bakery every Sunday morning, rain or shine, and buys bagels to share with his grandson Eli. Then Zaida’s (grandpa’s) three friends arrive at his apartment with their assisted walking devices for a Sunday morning bagel feast. All of that changes one Sunday when Zaida slips at at the bakery and has to rest for several weeks. All are discouraged but Eli saves the day by making the bagel run himself.

The story is simple and uncomplicated. It is a short picture book so there is no opportunity for character development. There is a mini glossary of sorts defining the five Yiddish words in the book and explaining two food words. The illustrations are my favorite part of the book. They have a little bit of a comic book style to them, are gentle, humorous, and reflect the mood of the characters very well. For me, it is a good read aloud, but not a book I would treasure and pass through the generations.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: Age Range: 5-6 years

Grade Level: P-2

Publication:  May 1, 2018—Kids Can Press

The Story of Arthur Truluv–kindness in action

The Story of Arthur Truluv

by Elizabeth Berg

The Story of Arthur TruvluvI don’t know what I expected as I methodically started the next book in my queue. This one was labelled “Women’s Fiction” which I have learned covers a wide range of possibilities. As a book blogger, I rarely read the online summary again after I have made my selection of a book that I will read weeks or even months later. I never read other reviews until I have written my own. Those practices keep even my subconscious honest.

The Story of Arthur Truluv is a beautiful, delicate surprise. A rather short book that rightfully flows from beginning to end with only double line spacing to mark changes or pauses in the storyline, it is best with no chapter breaks. By the end I had fallen in love with the main characters, the aging Arthur and the young Maddy who is covered with the sadness of being different in so many ways. I was immersed in their individual stories and their collective potential for happiness. They meet in a cemetery and quietly begin a friendship that crosses age barriers.

I am not generally an openly emotional person, but The Story of Arthur Truluv left me in tears, not of sorrow but of hope. Hope for the characters and for the future of real people who find themselves closed in by circumstances but trying to address life and death with hope, courage, and the gentleness that emanates from kindness.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction

Notes: I don’t usually read books I review more than once. I think this book will start a new Kindle collection for me: “Revisit.”

Publication:   November 21, 2017—Random House

Memorable Lines:

The bones of his face protrude; he’s gotten so skinny he could take a bath in a gun barrel.

But adults complicate everything. They are by nature complicators. They learned to make things harder than they need to be and they learned to talk way too much.

“But what we need are readers. Right? Where would writers be without readers?…See, that’s what I do. I am the audience. I am the witness. I am the great appreciator, that’s what I do and that’s all I want to do. I worked for a lot of years. I did a lot of things for a lot of years. Now, well, here I am in the rocking chair, and I don’t mind it, Lucille. I don’t feel useless. I feel lucky.”

Your Dream. God’s Plan.–Are You Longing for Something More?

Your Dream. God’s Plan.

by Tiffany Smiling

with Margot Starbuck

Your Dream God's PlanWhat were you like in fourth grade? How about when you were sixteen? Those are the ages at which Tiffany Smiling had major, life-changing medical events. She shares those stories in her book Your Dream. God’s Plan. Although these were pivotal points in Tiffany’s life, she was rescued by God to later do amazing things for His kingdom.

Your Dream. God’s Plan. is really focused on an audience of young women, but others can derive inspiration and guidance as well. She challenges young women to devote themselves to drawing close to God and then listening to the call He has for them. Her fascinating story relates miracles of how God used her and many amazing people she met to give out of their abundance and find that God always supplies enough.

Tiffany will draw you into worlds of poverty of body and spirit as she describes orphans, women rescued from sexual trafficking, extreme poverty, disease, and demons. But she also shares the many ways God answers prayers when the people of God make themselves available to be used by Him.

The book includes a section appropriate for study by groups or individuals for each chapter. There is a summarizing sentence followed by questions to help the reader personalize the content to her own life. The questions are followed by a “Dream Challenge” which focuses on how you can implement the concepts to find a closer relationship to God and thus discover His plan for your life. She finishes with a sentence or two “tip,” an additional quick take-away to help you make changes in your life to align your dream with God’s plan.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian

Notes: I had so many “memorable lines” highlighted that I just pulled out the first 3/4 for use below. I am not a thirty-something or a new Christian, but there was still so much to ponder and so many possibilities for spiritual growth to attend to.

Publication:  November 1, 2017 — Barbour Publishing

Memorable Lines:

At the moment the “good life” was just within reach, I discovered that lasting satisfaction wasn’t found where I thought it might be. In fact, as God revealed to me that scrambling after the dream I’d bought into would never satisfy, I tasted something even more fulfilling.

As you release the barren pursuit of earthly pleasures, exchanging it for the surprising way of Jesus, you will experience lasting satisfaction as you embrace what matters most.

You were made for so much more. If you are a student or a single working woman or a missionary or a full-time mommy, there is a calling over your life that involves bringing light to the dark places—in university hallways, in work cubicles, in overseas villages, and in the rooms of your home. If you are willing to release your grip on the plans you’ve been holding for your life, God is waiting to show you His plan that is even better for you and for the people He loves.

How can New Mexico help its students?

_absolutely_free_photos_original_photos_happy-kid-in-class-5184x3456_29015Education in New Mexico has gone from bad to worse. Teachers and, more importantly, students are suffering from bad decisions made at the state level by the Governor and her Secretary of Education, a non educator, cheered on by administrators at the school district level who fear retaliation if they stand up to the system. Teachers, in turn, fear from certain retribution (i.e. loss of job through inexplicably bad evaluations or being blackballed), if they hold their ground. The sweet children just do what they are told and suffer through overtesting and curriculum taught in a lockstep, one size fits all manner, while administrators claim that the “data driven instruction” will help students achieve higher levels. No, but it certainly wipes out individual initiative, creativity, and a love of learning. Oh, but the students do become better test takers!

Senator Tom Udall asked for my support for early childhood education on Facebook. Below is my response:
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The Simplest Way to Change the World–opening your home to others

The Simplest Way to Change the World

by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements

Why would an introvert with no the-simplest-waygift for entertaining read a book on hospitality? True confession: when I clicked on a link in an email to see what the book was about, I was unknowingly requesting a review copy of the book.  I have to admit I was intrigued by the subtitle: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life, and I had to wonder if maybe, just maybe, God was drawing me out of my comfort zone to show me a way that I could share the love of Jesus with others as a part of my daily life.

The Simplest Way to Change the World presents a biblical basis, both historically and scripturally, for hospitality: making your home, yard, and life open for engaging conversations with both non-Christians and other Christians. It shares the difference between entertaining (a high pressure show to convince others of your worth) and hospitality (opening your heart to others).  A discussion of the rhythms of your life shows how to include others in what you and your family are already doing and also to intentionally create opportunities to include others. In addition, there are suggestions for “reverse hospitality”–how to share Jesus’ love with those who are uncomfortable with an invitation into your home or are physically unable to leave their own residence.

The authors include anecdotes from their own experiences as well as tales related by family and friends who are sharing their homes, lives, and hearts with others. They emphasize that hospitality can be planned or spontaneous, and they point out that Jesus’ ministry was not a three step plan, complete with PowerPoint, to bring people into a physical church building. Instead, He wandered from place to place, listening, sharing, and meeting people’s needs.

This is not a difficult read, not a philosophical or religious treatise. It is practical, sometimes humorous, and always interesting. It stimulates readers to think of ways they can use hospitality in their own circumstances, where God has located them, and with the people He brings into their lives.  At the end of the book there is a helpful study guide for those who want to use this tool as a church or in a small group setting to learn about hospitality.

And as to the mouse click that brought The Simplest Way to Change the World to my iPad? No regrets here! Reading this book was a blessing.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Publication:  February 1, 2017–Moody Publishing

Memorable Lines:

And while the everyday use of our homes to welcome others may not feel like the most exciting cause in the world, we must remember that ordinary does not equal insignificant.

As you simply listen well, you practice Christ’s compassion.  The world is full of people who halfway listen to others just so they can take their turn talking next.

But the voice of God sang a sanguine love song in the rubble of my world.

The end goal of hospitality is care and healing–we do the caring and Jesus does the healing.

The Angels’ Share–Is this homeless man Jesus?

The Angels’ Share

by James Markert

the-angels-shareIt is hard to pigeonhole The Angels’ Share in the sense of literary category, theme, or purpose. The author, James Markert, has a history degree and categorizes The Angels’ Share as “commercial fiction set during historical times.” The publisher classifies it as both General Fiction (Adult) and Christian. Four major threads compete for attention–the Depression, Prohibition, the bourbon industry, and a confusing Christlike figure.

Times are particularly hard in the fictional town of Twisted Tree where Prohibition has raised unemployment levels due to the closing of the distillery.  The family that owned the distillery mysteriously seems to fare well financially, but there are dark tones to their story.

Homeless people play a major role in this novel, as in almost any tale of this era. One, in particular, stands out: Asher Keating, who has already passed away when the story begins.  A much decorated war hero who saved the lives of hundreds of fellow soldiers, he quietly accumulates a following as he roams around healing, feeding the hungry, and providing clothing. Is he Jesus fulfilling the second coming? Is he a guardian angel? Is he a lunatic?

The title The Angels’ Share emphasizes both the process of making bourbon and the religious and philosophical questions posed. According to the author,  angels’s share is “the quantity of whisky lost to evaporation during the aging process.” Tradition says that distillers share their bourbon with the angels as an offering so they will protect the distillery from fire.

The Angels’ Share is a very different book and a worthy read. The characters and their struggles are interesting.  The setting, both locale and time, are essential to the plot. I don’t consider it to be a “Christian” book because it doesn’t follow Biblical tenants and prophecies. It does have religion and relationship to God as thematic elements, and it does provoke thought about God, the homeless, and gifted individuals. The Angels’ Share is well-written with its complex threads telling a story with depth. The dialogue is appropriate to the era with lots of slang that has fallen out of popular usage, giving a realistic touch to conversations. The relationships of the various characters result in an interesting web as they move in and out of each others’ lives. There is even a romance that is integral to the plot, but does not dominate it.  As The Angels’ Share concludes, many questions are answered about the characters, but others are appropriately left to the reader to ponder.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult)

Publication:  January 17, 2017 — Thomas Nelson

Notes: I was intrigued, but not surprised, that the passages I highlighted as I read this book mostly deal with Asher Keating, the Christlike figure. There are many selections that made comparisons with or echoed Biblical text; they lead the reader to pose questions about Keating and his purpose on Earth.

Memorable Lines:

Hope can change even the most stubborn of men.

In the author’s historical notes: …there are now more barrels of bourbon aging in Kentucky than people.

Let’s Change those Stereotypes!

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The media in the U.S. often describes Mexicans with stereotypical terms–gangs, drugs, lazy. Let me shine a little light on the people who have shared their country with me for three years. I don’t know anyone in Mexico who fits into this stereotype, and why do we think we should throw people into a descriptive “basket” anyway? Are there people in Mexico who are unpleasant or criminal? Certainly, as there are the world over.

So, what kind of people have I encountered in Pátzcuaro, Mexico?  Kind, generous, and family oriented. If you need a stereotype, try that one. In our town, people are so patient when we try to communicate in our broken Spanish. We had a lady take us across town to find a repair shop when she was clearly headed in a different direction. She even stopped several times to ask directions for us. A young man spent the day climbing up and down a ladder to clean the exterior windows of our two story house and then would not charge us anything. He only took some money when we insisted it was for “Navidad.”

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A beautiful plant called Alcatraz

The flowers were given to me by our hairdresser. She has a clean, but worn, little one room, one chair beauty shop with no apparent source of water. Parking is one slot on the side of a busy, curvy hill. Hours are indeterminate. But she is pleasant and does a great job of cutting our hair. When I asked her for the name of the plant explaining that I had one in my yard at home but would like to buy more, she insisted I take the vase of flowers home–“un regalo” (a gift).

We look different, talk different, and dress differently, but we experience kindness and generosity. This is my stereotype for Mexicanos.

 

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education

by Raphaële Friermalala

illustrated by Aurélia Fronty

The youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize earned this award and world-wide acclaim through her activism in support of girls’ rights to education. Starting at age eleven, she began a courageous public battle against the Taliban and their destruction of girls’ schools in Pakistan. Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education, depicts Malala’s background and family support, her bravery in the face of Taliban violence, and her continuing efforts to bring light on rights’ issues for girls and women in particular, but  including all downtrodden people.

The artwork is an essential part of this book, providing colorful symbolic images.  At the end of the book there is a helpful timeline of events in Malala’s life as well as photographs of her.  There is an added useful feature for parents and teachers who want to extend the study with information on Pakistan, education in Pakistan and the world, and Malala’s religion and inspiration.  There are also brief discussions of other peacemakers: Gandhi, Mandela, and King.  This section includes quotes from Malala as well as a listing of other sources of information about Malala including links to various important speeches she has made.

Teachers will find Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education a valuable teaching resource. It empowers both children and women to stand up for what is right and summarizes the religious and historical context in a way that is understandable and appropriate for children.  This book could be used as an integral tool in many curricular units as well as to provoke thoughtful discussion by itself.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Charlesbridge Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Younger Readers, Biography

Notes:  recommended for ages 6-9

10 inches X 10 inches

48 pages

originally published in French

Publication:   Charlesbridge Publishing–February 7, 2017

Memorable Lines:

One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.

“Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.”–Malala

“The extremists are afraid of books and pens. With guns you can kill terrorists; with education you can kill terrorism.”–Malala

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